B2B marketing has changed. Marketers no longer have universal control over their product’s brand, thanks in large part to online review sites where users race to review the products they love (and hate).
Leading the results of Google searches of “best social analytics software” and “social analytics research” are sites like G2 Crowd, often outranking the websites of social analytics companies. Business buyers are using these review platforms, and relying on the opinions of their peers, to inform their buying decisions. These review resources have a direct impact on the market; 57 percent of business purchases now occur with no vendor contact, and 85 percent of business buyers are “satisfied once they have read up to 10 online reviews” when making a buying decision.
In addition to providing buyers with transparent insights from real users of products they’re researching, online review sites also give business users a voice to express their unbiased opinions, directly shaping a brand’s reputation. The thought of handing over control of their brand’s identity may cause marketers anxiety, but if utilized correctly, online reviews can be a powerful tool in a marketer’s playbook.
How to use online reviews in your marketing strategy
Here are a few ways in which marketers can capitalize on the authentic customer perspectives shared in online reviews:
Trust by Transparency
Businesses researching new products can turn to real user experiences and recommendations on review sites, and no longer have to rely on the word of sales pitches, marketing departments, or analysts alone. Marketers must understand that B2B buyers no longer trust the word of potentially biased parties, and overwhelmingly trust — and turn to — online reviews for product information. Allowing, and even encouraging, customers to write reviews on third-party review sites puts marketers ahead of the game in promoting transparency and access to first-hand insights.
“Marketers must understand that B2B buyers no longer trust the word of potentially biased parties, and overwhelmingly trust — and turn to — online reviews for product information.”
Companies that cultivate a large number of reviews are seen as more transparent and trustworthy, demonstrating that the company has nothing to hide. These companies can then rely on their online reviews in their marketing kits and sales pitches, as their customers speak for them.
By acknowledging happy business customers and advocating for them to leave reviews, marketers can empower customers to become brand advocates. Brand advocates feel connected to a brand and act as pseudo-marketers, spreading their positive experiences through social networks, word of mouth, and now, via online reviews. Brand advocacy is essential to modern-day marketing departments. In fact, 88 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend.
Commitment to Care
All reviews will not be glowing product endorsements, and that’s okay. Negative reviews should be viewed less as a threat and more as opportunities to reach out and resolve customer problems. This approach can turn unhappy users into satisfied customers, or possibly even advocates, while also showing potential new users that a brand cares for its current customers.
Additionally, negative reviews can actually improve conversions. “Negative user-generated content is actually one of the most effective conversion tools” with 68 percent of customers trusting products that have both positive and negative reviews more than products that only have positive reviews. No product is perfect, and a few negative reviews can bring a sense of legitimacy to a product. Negative reviews can also be a great way for a marketing team, and in a broader sense a company itself, to reflect on their product’s areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement based on the experiences of real users.
“Negative reviews can actually improve conversions.”
B2B marketers can’t afford to ignore online reviews; customers will write reviews regardless of a company’s attitude toward them. Savvy companies are implementing review strategies and encouraging all customers to provide feedback on their experiences, both positive and negative. Marketers should take pride in the quality of their product and be confident that a majority of their clients will have positive experiences with their service — otherwise they would no longer be customers.
While some negative reviews are inevitable, ensuring that all customers have the opportunity to provide input will allow the true and representative nature of a product’s user experience to shine through and serve as a resource on the buyer journey.
Levi Olmstead works on the outreach and user team at G2 Crowd. He is an Indiana Hoosier alum that spends most of his spare time helping his dog, Frodo, complete his quest to destroy the ring. Levi is also a loyal Indiana basketball fan and has an irrational fear of alien abduction.